Please enjoy the original writing, Christian travel journal, and photography by a hapa haole named Gail Rhea.

Original Writing & Photography

by Gail Rhea




From: "The Hapa Haole Journal"

Subject: Eagles & the Scent of Salt Water

Date: Mon, 03 Apr 2000 02:54:05 HST


Right now I’m sitting in the laundry room.

I forgot how inconvenient it is to have to leave your home in order to have clean clothes every day. There are seven washing machines costing 50 cents a load and six dryers costing 25 cents for 25 minutes. I didn’t have to wait very long to get washers for the two loads I have but having to sit here and wait while the loads are being done really cramps my style.

I remember doing the laundry in my early teens, not disciplined enough to stay and wait the interminable 30 minutes necessary for the washing machine to finish its work. I’d go out, find friends and play tetherball, mess around on the swings and teeter-totters, or hang out by the pool. When I thought about it, I returned to the laundry room and transferred the clothes to the dryer.

That’s where the problem was.

Instead of hanging around and waiting so I could grab the clothes straight out of the dryer and hang them to avoid ironing, I returned to my friends.

As a result, I got more than one lecture about being where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. I don’t think either of my parents ever realized that I didn’t mind ironing because I could do it at night when it was too late for me to be out having fun with my friends.

Fun with friends...some people wish they could return to middle childhood, about the ages of 4 – 11, thinking those years were the most carefree with the least responsibility. Not me. If I had to go back in time, I’d pick my high school years when I was old enough to go to breakfast with friends at Denny’s at 2 a.m. during Easter break and young enough to ask Dad for some money and the car.

Yup. Maximum fun with minimal responsibility. Old enough to know better and young enough not to care. Keeping out of trouble while living on the edge.


When I arrived at the Honolulu International Airport in February, I was surprised by the perfume of flowers drifting through the open air corridor to the main building. And, as I walk through downtown Honolulu on my various errands, I am constantly alerted to the fragranced delights of pikake, tuberose, gardenias, or a nearby plumeria tree. This week, I was startled by a different scent, a warm, familiar, vacation scent that seemed out of place in the financial district. It was the scent of the Pacific Ocean, the salt water quickening my attention away from the flowers, away from my errands.

It was afternoon and I still had two more stops to make. The siren call of the ocean was alive and well, tugging at my soul. I hesitated. I thought, “Well, one of my stops is in that direction. I can at least get that one done and then...we’ll see.”

When I exited the building over an hour later, the pull was stronger with the contrast between the scent of salt water and air conditioning accentuating it. I was now only one block away. I stopped. I waited. My heart and my head went into opposing corners.

Finally, I did the responsible thing, the disciplined thing, the adult thing, the heartless thing.

I walked two blocks in the opposite direction to my last errand of the day and found the office staff leaving.

Whoo-hoo! Hallelujah!

I bought a slice of banana bread from an outdoor vendor and headed for the harbor.

The initial sign of it was the four tall masts of the “Falls of Clyde.” Nearing Pier 8, the spinning radars of the sparkling white “Star of Honolulu” caught my eye. Finally, I noticed a two-masted catamaran, burnt orange paint over black, berthed beyond the “Falls of Clyde.”

Drawing closer, I saw three informational signs. The closest one proclaimed Honolulu Harbor to be one of the cleanest and to prove it, here are the fish you’ll see when you look into the water.

I looked. Oh, my goodness. It was true. The water was very clear. I immediately saw five yellow tang nosed into the sea wall like bright, oversized sale tags fluttering before a fan. Nearby, a Moorish Idol patrolled on guard duty in its black, yellow, and white vertically striped uniform. I started counting the members of a loose school of humuhumunukunukuapua’a and lost track when they swerved, a few of them exchanging places when they executed a military drill team maneuver.

It was time to relax and eat my bread.

I perched on the sea wall and immediately became uncomfortable. Cardinal Rule Number One of the islands is: Never turn your back on the ocean.

Yes, but this is the calm protected water of the harbor.

NEVER turn your back on the ocean.

Okay, okay.

I rearranged myself into a half-and-half compromise that was physically uncomfortable. Oh, heck. The only solution was to swing my legs over the sea wall.

When my parents and I visited the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, I sat on the wall sideways and decided to swing my legs over to get more comfortable. “Don’t do that,” my mother warned, “what if you fall?”

“Mom, I’m not going to fall.”

“You never know. What if you do?”

“Mom. I’m NOT going to fall. Besides, if I did, I’d land on the grass. There are yards before it slopes away and if, by the slimmest of chances, I rolled down the hill, I’d crash into all those people on the sidewalk below.”

“Yes, and the river’s right next to the sidewalk. Don’t put your legs on that side of the wall. Listen to your mother.”


Now, you have to understand when my mother had enough, I didn’t get The Look. She simply looked away and no longer heard anything I said. 

I wonder why I didn’t take advantage of her purposeful inattention. Lack of suicide genes, I guess.

As I swung my legs over the sea wall, my mother’s warning ran through my head.

Mom! I’m NOT going to fall!

What if I did?

I looked down. From this height, I’d be hard pressed to avoid getting my feet cut up by the coral growing on the underwater ledge. However, if I jumped, I bet I could make it past the ledge and drop into deep water. I can swim. I’ll be okay.

Jump? Well, what about getting out? Or am I planning to stay in the harbor forever?

I looked around. The “Star of Honolulu” was the closest ship but her sleek white hull wasn’t going to allow anything other than a mint green hint of the water’s deep color upon it. Reflections of ripples danced up the bow.

It was a private party. No humans allowed.

Well, that’s okay. I’m not dressed for the occasion anyway.

Beyond the ship, a ladder followed the lead of a piling, dipping below the water’s surface before rising to the dock’s edge. 

Ha! Like the saying goes, I got it made in the shade. 

Finishing my bread, I was surprised to see a young man with his bicycle right next to me. There’s enough vacant wall here. Why is he so close? 

“You need to bring your legs over to this side of the wall.” 

“Excuse me?”

The Royal Security guard repeated himself. I laughed and told him my thoughts, how my mother’s warning ran through my head. I ignore it and what happens? He shows up.

He laughed and said, “Yeah, it never goes away, does it? Actually, it’s a misdemeanor.”

“Sitting on the wall like this is a misdemeanor??”

“No. Jumping in.”

“Oh.” (Killjoy. Ahh, it must be a safety thing to keep swimmers from getting themselves chewed up by the ships’ screws when they’re ready to sail.) 

“I know you’ll be okay but you’re still going to have to swing your legs to this side. I’m not worried about you, but we don’t allow people to sit on the wall with their legs hanging over the water in case they fall in.” 


When I was in high school, my friends and I frequently went down to Waikiki at night to sit on the wall and watch the tourists. 

My legs swung over, I did the same now, sorting them out from the residents. The tourists wore T-shirts that had “Hawaii” boldly printed somewhere. In addition to the Hawaii T-shirt, one man wore tan shorts that had “MY” and “BUTT” printed with black letters at least three inches high across his back pockets. 

I did a double-take on that one. 

A couple approached the information sign, arms entwined in laughing disagreement. “See,” she pointed, “I was right. They’re called who-moo-who-moo-new-koo-new-koo-ah-pooh-ah-ah.” 

“I still call them reef triggerfish,” he replied. 

They laughed again and went on. I laughed too. Some things never change.

I talked to a man at church Sunday night who’s seeking God’s will about employment. He is becoming more and more dissatisfied at his present job but no one else will hire him. He did a little radio work at the local Christian station but isn’t sure this is God’s direction for him. 

We talked about eagles and their symbolism in the Christian faith. Did you know that the female American bald eagle builds her nest by using briars and thorny brambles as the base? Next, she lays down a layer of twigs topping it with leaves and grasses. Finally, she plucks out her own breast feathers for a soft layer to cushion her two eggs. 

Were you ever taught that a baby bird falling out of its nest before it’s old enough to fly will die? Guess what. If that baby bird is an eaglet who falls from a nest in a tree, its parents will fly down to guard it from predators and provide food until it’s strong enough to fly on its own. 

If you’re like a juvenile eagle who wants to stay in the nest and not get out of your comfort zone, please consider this: If an eaglet waits too long to leave the nest, it will be greatly encouraged to leave by the mother's preparation for her next set of young. First, she will remove the soft layer of feathers. More hesitancy will cause the young eagle to encounter the removal of the subsequent layers of nesting material until it is left in a nest of unbearable briars and thorns. If you find yourself in that type of situation, you really have no choice, you need to leave or you’ll suffer the consequences of staying.

Don’t worry about making the jump. You’ll be fine. When it’s time for an eaglet to learn how to fly, it has to leap out of the aerie built on a cliff or the top of a tall tree. When it does, the parent eagle is nearby to break the eaglet’s fall and carry it to safety if uncontrolled flight endangers the youngster.

Please think about it. Isn’t God the same? Whatever the situation - living too close to the edge, falling, jumping, or learning to fly, He’s there with whatever we really need.

Deu 32:11-12 As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

Lord, please keep whittling away at my inability to trust You. You’re doing a really good job so far. Thanks.







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